When I started writing The Lunch Tray in 2010, an actual week’s menu in Houston ISD included breaded chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, chicken fried steak fingers with cream gravy, beef taco nachos, beef taco salad, pepperoni pizza and Frito Pie (fried corn chips topped with chili and cheese). The latter two entrees were served with mashed potatoes, dessert was offered on most of those days, and it could all be washed down with chocolate milk. Indeed, that same year I shared here a mathematical experiment in which I proved that a child could easily gain weight from eating HISD’s school meals.
Those highly caloric meals made perfect sense, though, when you understand that the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was instituted to combat hunger after too many World War II recruits were found to be malnourished. But given the growing concern regarding childhood obesity, in 2012 the NLSP’s old calorie minimums were replaced with common sense calorie limits on each meal served.
Unfortunately, though, common sense doesn’t always prevail into discussions of school meals.
Though it had a long history of bipartisan support, the NSLP has become highly politicized ever since First Lady Michelle Obama made its overhaul one of her signature issues. So when much-needed reforms were instituted two years ago, one of the first complaints from the political right was that big, strapping football players were going hungry due to Mrs. Obama’s Nanny State school meal calorie limits. (See, “The Right Wing and the School Food Calorie Kerfuffle.”)
But is the specter of of the “starving student athlete” real? And even if very athletic kids need an usually high number of calories, should their unique needs dictate calorie limits for the rest of the student population, which is unfortunately quite sedentary?
I urge you to read Dana Woldow’s excellent piece in today’s Beyond Chron, “Are School Lunches Starving Student Athletes?,” which asks and answers those very questions.
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